“Illiberal”: The White Backlash Word

It did not take more than a day or two for there to emerge a white backlash against the spate of protests by African-American students on predominantly “white” college campuses like the University of Missouri and Yale University; including a rant by an apparent liberal on National Public Radio against what he saw as their “illiberal” behavior.

My google search found the adjective illiberal defined as “opposed to liberal principles, restricting freedom of thought or behavior” and “uncultured or unrefined.” White” conservatives and their allies condemn such protests as being indicative of a victim’s mentality. “White” moderates and those who think like them dismiss them as coming from people who are overly sensitive. And now the latest buzzword that initially appears to come from “white” liberals and those who accept their ways of thinking about racial conflict as a means toward progressive social change is that such actions are “illiberal.” What they all have in common is that they are all essentially “white” racial backlash frame responses to the expression of the pain born of the oppression of African-Americans.

Such white backlash is consistent with the “All Lives Matter” slogan dismissal of the “Black Lives Matter” movement; a movement which is now a driving force behind the campus protests.

In my Conceptualizing Racism book I discuss such racially-charged language battles between what I call linguistic racial accommodation and linguistic racial confrontation as well as what I refer to as the IPA Syndrome of groups that benefit from oppression. The letters IPA refer to the ignorance of not knowing; the privilege of not needing to know, and the arrogance of not wanting to know.

We see all of that in the attempt of some “white”–assumed to be–liberals to now use the word “illiberal” to silence African-American outrage at oppression just as their more conservative cousins have used the term “political correctness;” which more and more “white” moderates and liberals have come to accept. This emotionally-charged and paternalistic finger wagging behind the charge of illiberalism evokes the racist image of “black” savages who have invaded the hallowed “white,” and above all “civilized,” halls of academia; devoid of any real appreciation of and respect for its core values like freedom of speech and academic freedom.

But alas appearances are often deceiving. As it turns out the main driving force behind the concept of liberalism is not liberals, but their occasional racial allies; the extreme right wing. The “illiberal” concept is being pushed by political extremists who abhor the very words liberals and liberalism but now seem to want to seduce those who see themselves as liberals into a liberal/right-wing coalition against militant African-American social protest. At this coalition’s center is the extreme right-wing intellectual Dinesh D’Sousa who in 1998 published a book titled Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus. You may recall D’Sousa for his The End of Racism book which in the mid-1990s provided a racist cultural argument to justify white supremacy which complemented the biological argument made a year earlier by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve that was published by the same publisher.

This means that self-identified liberals who might find themselves attracted to the concept of illiberalism should be aware of this part of the concept’s history and how it is being used by the right-wing who ordinarily detest the very word liberal to form an unholy racial alliance against the legitimate aspirations of African Americans and other racially oppressed peoples. But there is still more ignorance, privilege, and arrogance to the use of the word “illiberal” as an ideology to beat back African-American protest than even that.

The term illiberal arrogantly assumes that all progressive African Americans are–indeed all left-leaning African Americans can aspire to be politically–is liberals. It assumes that like “white” liberals we are conflict-aversive and ultimately committed to sustaining the status quo by simply making minor tweaks to the system for it to function more smoothly.

It also arrogantly disallows the possibility that there is an African-American Left politics that dares to venture beyond whiteness and an intellectually, ethically, and politically shallow, multi-cultural/diversity framed liberalism. Now here is the racial bottom line, if you will. For progressive African Americans the best response to being labelled “illiberal” is to reject the label and framing of liberalism altogether by beginning a new conversation with the simple question that shatters the presumptuousness of white racial arrogance by simply asking. “And what makes you believe I am a liberal?”

Noel A. Cazenave is Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut. His forthcoming book, Conceptualizing Racism: Breaking the Chains of Racially Accommodative Language, is to be released this month. His current book project is tentatively titled, Killing African Americans: Police and Vigilante Violence as a Racial Control Mechanism and he plans to teach a course on the same topic at UConn next fall.

Black Athletes and Social Protest: A Long Tradition

Amid racial tensions on the campus of the University of Missouri, the student protest group, Concerned Student 1950, demanded the resignation of University President Tim Wolfe after mishandling several racialized incidents. At the center of the protests was graduate student and activist Jonathan Butler who began a hunger strike on November 2nd following Wolfe’s refusal to take action. At Butler’s behest, 32 black players on the Mizzou football team chose to take a stand in solidarity, protesting the systemic oppression felt by black students on the predominately white campus. Just as 1960s activist Dr. Harry Edwards (who was the architect behind the 1968 Olympic podium black power salute of track and field stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos) understood the power of the voice of the black student-athlete, Butler wisely struck an accord with the football players and inspired them to take up these disputes that similarly affect them and other marginalized students on campus.

Butler’s awareness undoubtedly led to the swift resignation of the beleaguered President Wolfe as well as the school’s chancellor. After months of ongoing protest, the president stepped down within two days of the athletes’ involvement. Ironically, this resembles a time when many schools in the West protested Missouri’s next opponent, the Mormon church-sponsored Brigham Young University, for their policies on blacks. Less than 50 years ago, fourteen black football players at the University of Wyoming sought to wear black armbands in their upcoming game against BYU in protest of its racist and objectionable teachings regarding people of African lineage.

The difference between then and now, however, was the disposition and sensitivity of the coach. The Black 14 (as they were called) went to Coach Lloyd Eaton in earnest to ask for support in bringing attention to what the players understood as a grave injustice. Instead, they were met with wrath and indignation, and they were unceremoniously kicked off the team effective immediately. In contrast, Missouri Football Coach Gary Pinkel showed unprecedented courage and leadership this past weekend as he gathered his team, ultimately encouraging all players to stand together with their brothers in battle, refusing to practice or compete until action was taken in favor of justice for stigmatized minorities.

It is a rare event when white Americans stand up for racial justice in defense of the oppressed, which is evident by the white outcry at his involvement in such a polemical issue. His players deserve much praise as well for putting their future on the line for a just cause. This is not the first time we have seen athletes speak truth to power, but it has been quite some time since we have witnessed an era of athletes standing in righteous defiance against social injustice.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a long-time athlete activist himself, recently lambasted Michael Jordon in an interview on NPR’s “All Things Considered” for choosing “commerce over conscience.” Abdul-Jabbar came of age in the 60s during the rise of the athlete-activist. Along with him, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Tommie Smith, Arthur Ashe, John Carlos and many others all stood up for racial injustice and used there prominence and visibility to draw attention to social issues that afflicted the African American community. These competitors would blaze a path for future black athletes to follow, leaving a legacy for the next round of freedom fighters. The black athletes that immediately followed, however, were focused more on their “brand” and the balance sheet, as they found a way to increase their presence in the burgeoning sports-industrial complex.

Michael Jordan undeniably changed the game, allowing players to realize the value of their labor power in negotiating contracts as well as lucrative celebrity endorsement deals. Even more so, pitching and developing products for mass consumption for the Nike Corporation, and ultimately branding his likeness with the Air Jordan sneaker craze, paved the way for today’s athletes to open up additional revenue streams. A player’s brand became the locus for the black professional athlete of the 1990s, as they labored to gain financial security for their families in a hostile environment.

But at what cost did this come to themselves and the black community? Jordan proved that the athlete had power to negotiate his or her own contracts and take a piece of the monetary share. But by failing to recognize that his power could be utilized to help alleviate human suffering, he in essence turned his back on black America, a people still in crisis. This was never more apparent than when “his Airness” famously stated, “Republicans buy shoes, too,” as he declined to politically endorse the black North Carolina incumbent for Senate against proud southern racist Jesse Helms.

Blacks have been largely left out from the developmental and business aspect of sport (coaching, operations, etc). They were hired to be the workhouse, the beasts of burden, with no stake in the game. The new millennium has seen a resurgence in athlete activism.

LeBron James is arguably the most formidable among his peers; his voice is often heard loud and clear. He recognizes the enormous sway that he holds in a sport-frenzied and capital-driven society. Feeling an obligation to use that platform in the cause of social justice, “King James” has been deliberate in taking a position to support African Americans, whether it be posting a protest picture supporting the late Trayvon Martin or voicing criticism of former Clippers owner Donald Sterling. But James certainly has not been the only audible dissident. Members of the St. Louis Rams staged a pre-game demonstration in support of the Ferguson community in the wake of Michael Brown’s death by a Ferguson Police Officer. And after the news that Eric Gardner’s killer would not be indicted, Derrick Rose kicked off a wave of consternation donning a warm-up t-shirt embossed with the “I Can’t Breathe” protest declaration. Several football players and soon entire NBA basketball teams followed suit. These concerns, however, were not isolated to the professional athlete. Collegiate programs like Notre Dame women’s basketball and Georgetown men’s basketball also involved themselves in the fray.

Just when the final words were inked in my new manuscript, When Race Religion and Sport Collide, which examines the thorny issue of race in college athletics in an age where players are asserting themselves and their rights to a quality education or compensation, the Mizzou football program eloquently provided a cogent roadmap for other division I teams to follow that demonstrate the ways in which players can and should use their popularity within big-time college sports to influence action and policy.

In the wake of the Wolfe resignation, will this undertaking allow students of color greater voice on campus, such as recruiting more faculty of color and administrators to represent their interests? Or will all progressive action silently fade back to what it was as soon as the money streams reopen? After all, with the self-reinstatement of the black athletes, University of Missouri no longer stands to lose an estimated $1 million at their next game against the cougars at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium.

Many have criticized the involvement of the athletes and Coach Pinkel, despite issues of race that directly affect the players on a human level. And yet, these dissenters are the same folk that buy tickets to the games, hoping to be a part of the sports madness so long as the players remain silent to marginalization. In other words, their presence is strictly for the sole purpose to entertain the fan. But this is precisely what these high-profile student-athletes should be doing—using their status for positive measures in the community, advancing the cause of equality in a nation rife with hatred.

University of Maryland wide receiver Deon Long walked among demonstrators during a Black Lives Matter protest holding a sign that would define his generation. He asked, “Are we still *thugs* when you pay to watch us play?” His question embodied all that is wrong with US race relations.

Darron T. Smith is a professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. He is the author of When Race, Religion & Sports Collide: Blacks Athletes at BYU and Beyond, which was recently released to critical praise in November 2015. Follow him on twitter @drdarronsmith This post first appeared on Huffington Post Sports

The White Racial Innocence Game

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Just one day after a successful student movement forced a college president to resign, the “collective white” is playing the racial innocence game and blaming people of color for the racial climate on college campuses across the nation. Whether at Yale or Mizzou, most whites believe that students and faculty of color are “hypersensitive,” playing “the race card,” and censoring (mostly) innocent white students and administrators. Yesterday morning, for example, Joe Scarborough savaged two black journalists from the Washington Post who are regulars in his MORNING JOE show. He demanded they explain to him why the President of Mizzou had to resign for two “isolated incidents” (he actually used this phrase). Scarborough argued that there is no evidence of “systemic racism” at Mizzou and that the ousted President had agreed to the demand of establishing an ethnic studies requirement (faculty reading this post know these requirements have been in place in many colleges since the 1980s or early 1990s). Since Eugene Robinson and Jonathan Capehart did not answer Mr. Scarborough’s questions in a cogent way and since Mr. Scarborough’s questions represent, in my view, how most whites interpret events in college campuses, I want to take some time to explain how systemic racism operates in HWCUs (historically white colleges and universities).

First, whites need to understand that most colleges and universities in the USA are white-oriented and white-led. This is why I call them HWCUs and, as I have argued many times in my FB (Facebook) posts, these institutions reproduce whiteness through their curriculum, culture, demography, symbols, traditions, and ecology. The white innocence game begins with the assumption that these spaces are racially neutral, but that assumption is false! HWCUs were 100% white institutions until very recently and that white history shaped them in profound ways. The admission of a few people of color in the late 1960s and 1970s into HWCUs—and I must point out that their admission was because people of color protested and demanded inclusion—did not lead to their “integration,” a concept that involves much more than spatial cohabitation. In fact, many ways whites, the W in HWCUs, have remained central to their organization and culture. We were brought into these places as guests with the expectation that we would not ask for anything else—we have been for a long time but few dots of color in otherwise white canvasses. (As an aside, part of the white innocence game is the belief by whites that we are ungrateful for all they have done for us; for all they have given us over the years. To this “white sincere fiction” (Feagin and Vera, White Racism), given that we fought for our freedom and partial inclusion in America, I say, “Thank you massa!”)

Second, whites were not, and are still not, happy with our presence in universities. They think (and some even tell us to our face) that we are all “affirmative action babies.” We all know how horrible the first black and Latino folks who “integrated” (they were just the firsts guests in white canvasses) were treated in these places, but what many whites outside and inside the academy do not know—or pretend NOT no know–is that people of color are still treated as second-class members in the academy. We still do not feel as equal members of the academic club and all the reports on campus racial climate in HWCUs across the nation bear this out. Mr. Scarborough and whites in general, please check out the manifold reports that clearly show how we feel in these places.

Third, Mr. Scarborough and members of the “collective white,” racism (racial domination) is as SYSTEMIC in college campuses as it is in the nation at large. For example, college admissions are based on tests that are not reliable measures of the capabilities and likelihood of success of students of color. Faculty are hired based on their records, but no one discusses how race (racism) affects the productivity of whites (positively) and of non-whites (negatively), a situation that gives whites systemic advantages. The statues, names of buildings, and traditions in HWCUs are emblems of whiteness which makes us feel like we do not belong! And most of the localities in which HWCUs are located, reproduce and reinforce whiteness. Please liberal whites reading this post, do what you seldom do: talk to faculty and students of color and they will tell you how hard is to go out at night in their college town; how hard is to deal with campus and city cops; how hard is to go to a bar in your bucolic white town. And although I believe racial domination is accomplished mostly through subtle and institutionalized practices, WE ALL have experienced in college campuses what Dr. Elijah Anderson calls “the nigger moment”; we have been called names, mocked, or harassed in old-racism fashion.

Fourth, classrooms are hostile zones for most of us. If as students we raise concerns about the material used by our professors in the classes (“Professor Blanco, why are you not including African artists and artistic traditions in your WORLD ART HISTORY course?”), we are accused of trying to politicize things (“You folks always want to talk about race!”). If we are professors and dare suggest that racism is as American as apple pie (i.e., that it is structural), white students say we are calling them racist and making them feel bad (“You don’t know ME….I am a good person.”). We are disrespected and unappreciated as professors and suffer in our evaluations because of racism.

Fifth, if Scarborough and other whites asked us open, rather that accusatory questions, such as, “How do you feel in the college in which you work?” they would be surprised. They would hear about how often we experience microaggressions perpetrated by professors, students, staff, and the campus police. They would hear how we feel like most white colleagues (faculty and students) do not understand, care, or appreciate our work. They would hear about how alienated and tired we are in these institutions. They would hear about how the racialized stress we endure day in and day out is literally KILLING us. Yes, racism experienced in low but constant intensity is, as the work of David R, Williams clearly shows, a silent killer.

So Mr. Scarborough and whites in America, racism in the academy, like racism in the nation, is indeed systemic! Although it no longer operates primarily the way it did 50 years ago, the new “killing me softly” way in which racial domination is carried out is effective in maintaining the white house WHITE. So please, please, please STOP the racial innocence game; stop saying that you play no part of the American racial game in America because some of your “best friends are black” (you don’t know their names, but they are your very best friends); stop accusing people of color of dividing the academy (NEWSFLASH, we have been divided forever!) and “censoring” you (are you kidding me?); stop proclaiming that because you do not use the N-word and are a “good person,” that this is enough (you still receive the “wages of whiteness” so your claim to racial innocence is not credible)!

Finally, If you want protests on college campuses to cease and want racial peace in America, then admit that race matters, admit that racism is real and systemic, and work with us towards the transformation of society in general and HWCUs in particular. But if you just keep saying “I don’t see race (or racism),” if you continue the white innocence game, then we will continue believing wholeheartedly that you are part of the problem and will keep SHOUTING as loud as we can “No Justice, No Peace!” It is time for you, Mr. Scarborough and whites in America, to step up to the historical plate and, as Spike Lee would say, “Do the right thing!” The ball is on your court.


~ Eduardo Bonilla-Silva is Professor and Chair of Sociology, Duke University. This post originally appeared on Facebook and is re-posted here with the author’s permission.

U.S. Sex Trafficking: Hidden Ramifications of Systemic Racism

On the way home from teaching while attempting to evade the headache that comes from interaction with the average southern California driver, I thought a little music would help me to relax from a day filled with attempts to connect theory to brain, I hit the power button. Instead of the musicality of calm, the deep chest bumping beats of some rapper I had no idea existed was in the midst of some diatribe falsely immersed in wealth, power, and masculinity. Listening and simultaneously keeping my eyes on the road while blindly reaching to change the channel, I could not help but pick up on the overdone theme.

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The lyrical artist was drawing a colorful linguistic picture which depicted him as a “pimp” engulfed in “hos,” and luxury. As the new satellite radio station took over the airway in my car, the serenity that ensued “got me a thinkin.’” How have terms such as pimp and ho become so cavalier within our vernacular? How have popular depictions of these terms become so common on our flat screens and within the digital tracks of our CDs? I ask because one cannot escape the glamorization lapidated lyrics of celebrated musical artists transferred through radio waves. The jokes told, amongst those you feel free to divulge your hidden social irresponsibility—“What do you tell a Hooker with 2 black eyes? Nothing you have already told her twice.” Or how about the television dramas and comedies that find a way to make it OK to laugh, while concurrently publicly scorning and blaming the women for their misfortune. The deep thinking caused my stomach to turn and my black brow to curl.

It is evident to me that behind the romanticized representation of pimps, men (loosely applied term of identification…ok, correction…scum) who control women through fear, violence, manipulation, and intimidation; and the proceeding life of the women they prey upon, deserve no glorification. Within a dark world few are willing to broach through legislative action or socially responsible research within the academy, there exists not only human injustice, but also racial injustice.

Though secrecy, unwillingness of victims to come forward, and the all-around nature of sex trafficking, the U.S. State Department notes that we must be cautious when referring to the exact numbers of incidences. But for the sake of conceptuality, it is important to understand the depth of the issue. For example, those trafficked into the U.S., the U.S. State Department stated that roughly 600,000 to 800,000 victims annually cross international borders worldwide. A majority are girls and women, and about half of these victims are younger than 18 years-of age.

Within the U.S., Polaris, a human trafficking advocacy group, noted that for those reported to their organization, 1 in 6 were endangered runaways that were more likely to have been victims of sex traffickers. The economy surrounding the topic is astounding. In 2014, it was reported that cities such as Denver and Atlanta gained 39.9 and 290 million respectively from sex trafficking. In terms of U.S. victims, the Department of Justice reported in 2011 that known cases of sex trafficking victims whose race was known, 40.4, 25.6, 23.9, 5.8, and 4.3 percent were Black, White, Latino, Other, and Asian respectively. For those victims arrested for sex offenses, 55 percent of were Black children. Some have argued the economic angle to describe this occurrence. The Urban Institute reported that when traffickers were interviewed, they overwhelmingly understood that this business is consumer driven. In fact, the demand regulates heavily toward White women. They again understood the economic gain of utilizing all women, especially White women who could yield the highest economic gain. But if caught by law enforcement, they also agreed that by trafficking only in Black women their sentences would be shorter.

The fact that millions of international and national adult women and children (males and females) are exploited, sold, kidnapped, raped, manipulated, at times brained like cattle, beaten, and emotionally scarred should be enough for us to be pursue vigilant activities toward eradicating the trade. But the silence related to the topic is deafening. The lack of real effort regarding sex trafficking occurring within the U.S. does not baffle me one little bit. First, we have a history of ignoring the plight of children and women. Historically, women treated as property and the rate of physical abuse children is not uncommon to the pages of US history. Neither are the ramifications of systemic racism. In relation, the lack of overwhelming public concern toward Black females is not abnormal.

From the rape and medical experimentation performed on enslaved Black women by white “doctors” such as the father of modern gynecology, J. Marion Sims, who without anesthesia performed ghastly experiments to the recent discovery of forceful eugenic sterilization of Black girls and women in North Carolina are all illustrations that lend explanation to the current lack of light shined upon said the current injustice.

Looking back now, I even wonder why I wrote this piece. I am conscious enough to know I made no major blow to foil this dastardly deed of exploitation. What did I do? Maybe I simply informed those who have no information. All I can really hope for is that maybe, just maybe the next time you hear someone call themselves a “pimp” and someone a “ho” in a passing exaltation, you will awaken from reverie to a state of revulsion and outrage.

~ Terence Fitzgerald, PhD, Ed.M, MSW, is Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California (San Diego Academic Center).

Modern Romance and the Glaring Absence of Race

Race is at the center of how we construct and act on our notions of desire, but you wouldn’t know that from reading Modern Romance, a unique collaboration between a sociologist and a comedian.

In collaboration with sociologist Eric Klinenberg, Aziz Ansari wrote Modern Romance, a book that explores “dating in the digital age.” Addressing the contemporary dynamics of romantic relationships – which are often mediated through various forms of technology (cell phones, online dating websites, etc.) – a major draw of Ansari’s New York Times best-selling book is that it seems to explain why young people are so “awful” about dating more traditionally and therefore, are not good at getting married.

Ansari, a comedian by trade, has established himself as someone who makes (albeit marginally) insightful observations about inequality, particularly when it comes to race, as with his new Netflix series Master of None.

In fact, Ansari notes that racism in Hollywood – specifically the problematic representation of Indian and other South Asian characters – was a central motivator for his creation of Master of None, as no one else would have offered him this role:

When they cast these shows, they’re like, ‘We already have our minority guy or our minority girl.’ There would never be two Indian people in one show. With Asian people, there can be one, but there can’t be two. Black people, there can be two, but there can’t be three because then it becomes a black show. Gay people, there can be two; women, there can be two; but Asian people, Indian people, there can be one but there can’t be two. Look, if you’re a minority actor, no one would have wrote this show for you… Every other show is still white people.

This astuteness around issues of race, racism, and representation are what drew me to Ansari’s book on dating this summer.


The book, however, is deeply flawed when it comes to any form of analysis of race. Considering Ansari’s awareness around issues of race in his comedy, I found the glaring absence of race in this book extremely disappointing. How one can write about “modern” romance and not note the role that race plays in terms of who is or is not deemed attractive is actually quite mind-boggling.

Modern Romance assumes a consistency of dating experience across race that is problematic. Assuming that people of color have had the same experiences as, or with, white people with online dating is critically irresponsible and is contradicted by the research. White millenials in particular have proven time and time again they are not as progressive as they are assumed to be, including in who they choose to date (or exclude from dating).

Even best-selling author and OKCupid co-founder Christian Rudder notes the continued role of racism in the chances of finding a partner online in his book Dataclysm and on the blog OKTrends. He reiterated this fact again during a Q&A at the 2015 meeting of the American Sociological Association in Chicago that I attended. When Helen Fisher of Match.com suggested that online dating had wiped out prejudice, he was quick to correct that misperception. Given the widely known and easily available data on race and online dating, the disappearing of race from Modern Romance’s analysis is all the more curious. This colorblind approach does little to help us understand contemporary intimacies that begin online and does even less to advance sociological understanding of modern romance.

Ansari does not mention the racial or class identities of the daters except for two Indian American men in a focus group. Thus, the text allows heterosexual middle class whiteness to masquerade as “universal.” This is particularly evident when Ansari and Klinenberg discuss the dynamics of traditional means of meeting potential dating partners with some residents of a New York City retirement home.

As the older informants in their book relate how they met their partners in their apartment buildings or in their neighborhoods, the book conveniently avoids noting how segregation and the white habitus were at play in terms of determining who people had access to decades ago and at present. When Ansari attempts to explicitly address race, it is treated as a cute joke. Ansari notes that he would have had a “hard time” trying to date in the 1950s due to being “brown” but he doesn’t go beyond that. Xenophobia, racism, and a variety of structural and legal inequalities also go without mention (Loving v. Virginia, for example) in Ansari’s brief commentary on his prospects in the time “before technology took over.”  It’s unclear what motivates this gaping lack of critical analysis other than a desire to maintain the levity of the book and, possibly, to avoid the “messiness” of race for Ansari’s predominantly white “progressive” audience.

More disturbingly, however, the book does an excellent job of perpetuating racist stereotypes. The author(s) herald the fact that they did not just rely on focus group and interview data from the States; they also talked with people in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Paris, France, Tokyo, Japan, and Doha, Qatar. Yet, the “international perspectives” chapter focuses mainly on contrasting Japan, Argentina, and the U.S.

In a problematic set of metaphors, the Japanese – particularly the men – are referred to as “herbivores” in contrast to the “rib eye-eating maniacs” of Argentina. This distinction perpetuates Western understandings of the sexuality of Asian and Latino men. There is a lengthy history of fetishizing the virility and “hot bloodedness” of Latino men while denigrating the lack of these qualities in Asian men in the United States, a dynamic that is well-documented in studies of interracial marriages (see Nemuto, Steinbugler or Frankenberg). These stereotypes inform not only dating and marriage dynamics in the U.S., but serve as motivation for phenomena such as sex tourism. Further, recent sociological studies have led to a focus in the media around the racist preferences of online daters, specifically the lesser prospects of black women and Asian men.

There may be nothing “new” about the relationships between race, sex, and romance, but if we truly want to understand “modern” romance, researchers (and comedians) must work to avoid strengthening colorblind logics.


~ Shantel Buggs is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research looks at dating and mixed race identity when mediated through online dating sites. 


The Moynihan Report is Still Wrong

Declining US marriages, coupled with growing numbers of “nonmarital” births, are the subject of considerable anxiety in the social policy literature. Such arrangements, it is argued, are ripping apart the social fabric and are a major cause of bad outcomes for boys (see this for example). This line of thinking is heavily racialized, and typically invokes the allegedly prophetic Moynihan Report of 1965. At the height of civil rights legislation, and escalating urban unrest, Daniel Patrick Moynihan was a policy analyst for the Dept. of Labor. He wrote a research report on black poverty that concluded female-headed households were a major source of the problem. His controversial explanation shifted attention away from white racism and onto black “culture.” He expressed concern about black male unemployment, but his report suggested that African American parenting produced undesirable workers.

In 1965, 24% of black children lived in female headed households; by 2015 it had increased to 72%. Clearly, it seemed, Moynihan had been right that this was a dangerous and growing problem. In the 50th anniversary of the report, celebratory books, special journal issues, panels, conferences, and editorials have assigned much credibility to this belief. Paul Ryan and Barack Obama both pay homage to the report, illustrating its wide ideological appeal. Exemplary of this trend is a set of articles from the spring 2015 issue of Education Next, a conservative online journal. Sara McLanahan and Christopher Jencks’ article is titled “Was Moynihan Right?” They present a dizzying array of facts and statistics that appear to answer the question affirmatively. I challenge that verdict.

Moynihan’s “prescience” is monotonously intoned and rarely questioned, even though single-parenthood has increased in all ethnic categories and is heavily concentrated among families in poverty. Trend lines are similar, although rates have remained elevated for African Americans who have suffered consistently higher rates of poverty and unemployment. Moynihan made it a black thing, but it was more accurately a class thing. His black-white comparisons failed to control for income, yielding misleading results both within and between groups. He considered black female-headed households to be inherently deviant and conducive to all kinds of pathological results. Based on one highly flawed statistic, he argued that it was a problem “feeding upon itself.” Critics in the 1960s and 70s targeted these problems with his research, and the overly confident and florid tenor of the narrative he constructed. In the 1980s and since, these legitimate criticisms have been described instead as a vicious “smear campaign” by forces of “political correctness.” McLanahan and Jencks cheerfully repeat this canard in their effort to lionize Moynihan and his report.

Correlations between single parenthood and negative outcomes in school, prison, the workplace, and parenting in the next generation are examined by McLanahan and Jencks, but most of their exposition is not about race, but education and poverty. One graph shows currently that black single mothers with college degrees have substantially higher poverty rates than white single mothers who are high school drop-outs (28% v 18%). This anomalous fact draws no comment. They include a variety of graphs that indicate tandem changes across time related to economic and policy conditions, barely discussed in their analysis.

The 1980s brought a sharp uptick in problem indicators for all groups, especially African Americans and Latinos, and another spike in the early 90s, with brief improvement in the late 90s that ended after 2000, when it worsened again. Apparently straightforward responses to changing opportunities are instead twisted into complex speculations that bad choices by poor women and irresponsible behavior by poor men are the main problem. Inequitable return on higher education for single black mothers contradicts this assertion. Rising rates of single-motherhood alongside falling rates of crime and teen pregnancy are also contradictory. Nonetheless, the image of pathological parents raising pathological children forms a major strut of contemporary racism, a convenient shuffle from biology to culture – a politically acceptable way to blame victims and shift attention away from the real pathological (mainly white) elements in our society who stole houses and pensions and depressed job opportunities in ways that may never recover.

Globally and across time, marriage suffers when work is scarce and men are forced to leave. These conditions explain much of what has happened to US marriages over several decades. Underemployment, declining wages, and mass incarceration have eroded the security of committed relationships. Improved rights offered greater independence for women seeking to avoid or escape bad marriages, but persistently lower female wages intensified disadvantages of their one-income households. These are structural causes begging for structural solutions. Job creation, worker protection, criminal justice reform, and redistribution of wealth would let these marital problems solve themselves.

Susan Greenbaum is Professor Emerita of Anthropology at the University of South Florida

The Appeal of Ben Carson: An Acceptable “Other” ?

Presidential candidate Ben Carson said recently that he “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation,” and some liberal media outlets have attributed his behavior to him being ‘out of his mind.’ The reality remains that since this Islamophobic statement, Carson has surged ahead of Donald Trump in the polls.

Ben Carson

Since 9/11, hatred and intolerance of Islam in the U.S have been a sustained drumbeat in public discourse. Yet, Americans typically place blame for Islamophobia not on the perpetrator of the hate speech or on a widespread national problem with racism, but on the acts of ISIS or other terrorist organizations abroad. 

Trump also responded to a question from a supporter about our country’s “Muslim problem” and how we should “get rid of them” by affirming that he would in fact “do something” about this “problem.” This acceptance – even promotion – of Islamophobia by the top polling Republican presidential candidates requires further analysis in light of the country’s current racial climate, particularly when such comments are made by a Black man seeking the oval office.

Why have Muslims become a common enemy – the “other” all Americans can agree to hate? Part of the answer has to do with orientalism.

Orientalism – described by Edward Said as the process of the West defining itself as superior in opposition to the inferior civilizations of the East – is a racist logic that generates a perpetual state of war; it constitutes immigrant groups from the broadly defined ‘East’ (in this case Muslims) as posing a constant threat to our domestic security. This logic serves to justify war as a way to protect the United States from its perpetual enemies – people defined as so fundamentally different from Americans that their mere existence on our soil constitutes a threat.

Ben Carson’s quest for economic and political power as a Black Republican in America is a path fraught with racist landmines. Arguably, one of the strategies available to Carson in supplicating his majority-white party is to make himself appear more electable by assuming a globally anti-Muslim mantle. But why would a Black Presidential candidate employ Orientalism in the rhetoric of his campaign?

Three Pillars of White Supremacy

(Image source: Abagond)

Andrea Smith, in “Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy,”  argues that genocide/colonialism, slavery/capitalism and orientalism/war are three separate and distinct, yet interrelated logics that make up white supremacy. Smith explains that genocide is a logic that upholds colonialism; the narrative and illusion that native peoples have simply disappeared from this land affords rightful claim to all non-indigenous groups. The logic of slavery upholds capitalism – it commodifies people of all races but keeps Black Americans positioned at the bottom, even hundreds of years post-slavery, as a way for other oppressed racial groups to be able to accept their economic and social standing; these other groups can always look to the circumstances of Black people and see that their fate could be worse. And, orientialism, directed at immigrants of color no matter how long they have been in the U.S., is used to justify the constant state of war to protect itself from enemies.

Smith argues that even members of oppressed groups can become complicit in the oppression of other groups by embracing these logics. In many ways, Ben Carson’s complicity in vilifying Muslims functions as strategic use of one of the logics of white supremacy.

As a racial “other” seeking our nation’s highest political office, Ben Carson must prove his commitment to maintaining the status quo through maintaining each of the pillars in order to be considered as a serious and viable candidate. To many white voters, his blackness serves to legitimate racist claims against Muslims as it does with criticisms of his own racial group. Ultimately, Carson’s Orientalist rhetoric makes him an especially seductive candidate for perpetuating white America’s commitment to colorblind ideology. In other words, for a white person looking to publicly prove their racial indifference despite their internal racist attitudes, a Black candidate spewing Islamophobic hatred is an especially enticing option at the polls.

When it comes talking about race, most white people know that the acceptable stance is to be “race neutral” – say the wrong thing, and you might be labeled a “racist” – the scarlet letter of our so-called “post racial” society. Our collective failure is that most people have a limited understanding of what racism actually is, and do not see Carson’s Islamophobia as racism. It seems that Orientalism, and in this case Islamophobia as a specific manifestation of Orientalism, has joined traditional white racism as a publicly acceptable way to manifest bigotry. But displacement in the form of overt Islamophobia does nothing to help heal the very real wounds of our country’s continuing legacy of racialized oppression, as it too is racism. Instead, displacement of racial angst serves to strengthen the very phenomenon it wishes to evade.

President Obama

We must also consider the implications of the 29% of Americans who, well into Obama’s second term, still maintain that he is a Muslim – even after significant proof has been provided that he is in fact a practicing Christian. While it is taboo in our colorblind society to claim that one has a problem with Obama as President because of the color of his skin, re-configuring him as a Muslim is a convenient way to protest his position in power without seeming “racist.” In this way, it is possible to use the racist logic of Orientalism to avoid being perceived as an overt racist complicit in the hierarchical positioning of whites as superior to every other race. Carson may also be using this rhetoric as a tactic to strategically distance himself from President Obama and appeal to voters who will inevitably find a way to conflate the two Black men, despite their dramatically different political attitudes.

We cannot allow ourselves to tolerate Ben Carson’s or anyone else’s blatant Islamophobia and to attribute its rise to the fear of a very small number of extremists whose crimes do more to pervert Islamic teachings than to follow them. ISIS as well as other terrorist groups who claim to practice radical Islam have been denounced by Muslim leaders around the world, and so we must accept them as what they are – dangerous political organizations. Allowing racism against Black Americans to be displaced as racial and religious intolerance against Muslims will do nothing to address either issue; it will only increase the strength of white supremacy and its dangerous counterpart of colorblind racism – serving to deeply harm all oppressed groups in our society.

~ Cara Cancelmo is student at Skidmore College, in upstate New York, where she studies government and intergroup relations.

What No One Will Say When a Cop Gets Killed

In New York City this week, an NYPD cop was killed and another man shot just a few blocks from where I live and work. Killed was Officer Randolph Holder who was a kind and brave man, an immigrant from Guyana, and his death is a senseless tragedy. This is what everyone will say now. This is what we are all obligated to say now.

(Randolph Holder, 33, NYPD, was shot and killed Tuesday, October 20, 2015 in East Harlem

Image source)

The man who allegedly shot the officer, Mr. Tyrone Howard, was in a diversion program – a kind of alternative sentencing program for those with non-violent, drug-related charges.  Mr. Howard, who was also shot and injured by Mr. Holder, had no history of violence, but instead had a series of arrests for low-level drug-related charges.

(Tyrone Howard, 30, accused of shooting Randolph Holder. Image source)

Mr. Howard, 30, had made bail in February for selling crack cocaine to an undercover cop in one of the NYPD’s buy-and-bust operations that serve as the daily machinery of the war on drugs, providing overtime pay for cops and locking up a huge swath of the citizenry. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Edward McLaughlin—acting within the law of the recently reformed harsh Rockefeller drug laws—decided Mr. Howard’s case should be sent to an alternative-to-prison system known as ‘diversion.’ There is lots of research that demonstrates these sorts of diversion programs are effective at reducing recidivism (e.g., Holly Wilson and Robert Hodge, “The Effects of Youth Diversion on Recidivism: A Meta-Analytic Review.Criminal Justice and Behavior 2013).

Almost before the bullets had stopped flying, NYPD Police Commissioner William Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio questioned why Mr. Howard was not locked up to begin with. Then, a cascade of calls began that urged an end to any alternative programs began right away even though this shooting had nothing to do with the effectiveness of diversion, and Bill de Blasio (mayor of NYC) knows this.  Leading progressive voices, like Kassandra Frederique of Drug Policy Alliance, called for reason and urged New York to keep successful alternative-to-incarceration programs like diversion.

But, a reasoned debate about the merits of diversion programs has not been on offer in the mainstream, local news in New York City this week. Instead, we’ve heard a lot from Pat Lynch.

The mainstream media coverage here has been a relentless, 24/7 cycle of very narrowly focused coverage, prominent featuring interviews with Pat Lynch, the thuggish NYPD union representative.  Much of that coverage has included law-and-order headlines like this one from the New York Daily News:

Manhattan DA’s office ‘puts gun in hands’ of accused cop-killer Tyrone Howard

Pat Lynch

(Pat Lynch, Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association)

“Too Soon”

Months ago, activists with Rise Up October had planned a rally for Saturday, October 24 to call attention for an end to the systematic policy brutality that takes the lives of a disproportionate number of black and brown people. They could not have known that a cop would be killed in New York just days before. What these activists were rallying to call attention to is the sustained and systematic way police kill black and brown people.

Nationally, the U.S. Justice Department does not collect data on the number of people killed at the hands of police (no federal agency does), but according to research conducted by the Malcolm X Grassroots organization, every 28 hours in 2012 a Black man, woman, or child was killed by someone employed or protected by the US government. In New York, according to the NYPD’s own Firearm Discharge Report, the overwhelming majority of those killed by police are black and brown people.

Who is Shot by NYPD


Yet, this systematic destruction of black and brown lives is lost in the media coverage that the rally was a “disgrace” and “too soon” following the death of a cop.



(New York Post Front Cover, October 25, 2015)

Certainly, some of my fellow citizens are saying “f-ck you to the NYPD,” as the New York Post reports on its cover today. Activist and East Harlem resident Josmar Trujillo writes about the reaction to the shooting from neighbors and long-time residents in the area. “I don’t care about them getting shot because at the end of the day they don’t care when we get shot,” Trujillo reports one resident told him. He goes on:

The young woman [in East Harlem] I spoke to wasn’t even as blunt as local young people I spoke to that simply said “Fuck ’em” when I asked about the shot cop. What about the fact that the cop was black, I asked three young men walking down 119th street the day after the shooting. “It don’t matter,” they told me. “As long as he’s wearing that patch, fuck him too.”

It’s not surprising that in a neighborhood — and a city, and a nation — where black and brown lives are not respected by police, people have no respect for the police and are unmoved by their deaths. It’s also not surprising to me that people who live under police surveillance and under the constant threat of state-sanctioned violence by the police are hearing about the death of a cop and saying, “fuck the police.” This is something people are saying.

What No One Will Say

What no one will say, at least in public with a microphone, is that since Rockefeller Reform, the law-and-order crowd has been waiting for a cop to be killed to trot out their push-back on those reforms. Just a few years ago here in New York State a coalition of progressive activists got Rockefeller Reform passed. These reforms were part of what made diversion programs like the one Mr. Howard was in possible.

The coalition of progressive groups that fought for Rockefeller Reform have been noticeably quiet in the media since Mr. Holder was killed; and, who can blame them? There’s no winning a media cycle when the mainstream media is in lockstep about a cop who has been killed.

What no one will say when a cop gets killed is that this death is collateral damage in the trillion dollar failed war on drugs and its twin, mass incarceration.  In New York City what this means is 95% of the inmates in New York City jails are African American or Latino, while these two groups make up only about half the city’s population. A majority of those in NYC’s jails are there for low-level drug offenses like marijuana and these, too, are racially biased. U.S. government surveys have consistently found that whites use drugs, including marijuana, at higher rates than do African Americans and Latinos. Nonetheless, the NYPD arrests whites for drug possession at much lower rates than it arrests African Americans or Latinos, according to research by Professor Harry Levine. Mass incarceration and the war on drugs that fuels it, are part of the engine of white supremacy in NYC and the nation as a whole.

Tyrone Howard was a man with low-level drug charges who was being forced out of public housing because of those charges.  Randolph Holder was assigned to patrol public housing. A key part of his job was patrolling public housing for people with drugs or on outstanding warrants for drug offenses. Both men were cogs in the machinery of the drug war. If we want fewer cops killed on duty, we must stop the senseless pursuit of people for use, possession or sale of drugs, and tying every other human right – including housing – to those draconian laws.

What no one will say is that Tyrone Howard’s life has ended now in a social death in our gulag of prisons as much as the physical life of Randolph Holder has ended in death.

What no one will say is the rhetoric of “blue lives matter” is white supremacy dressed up in the guise of public safety.

What no one will say is that even now, even when a cop has been killed, we have to continue to demand an end mass incarceration, and the whole law-and-order apparatus that feeds that beast.

On the very same day that the shooting in East Harlem happened, more than 130 police chiefs, prosecutors and sheriffs — including NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton — met in Washington, D.C. They met as part of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, a group of law enforcement officials who recognize from the inside that the system of mass incarceration is broken. Rather than focusing on law-and-order solutions to a host of social problems, this group steps forward to say that reducing incarceration will improve public safety because people who need treatment for drug and alcohol problems or mental health issues will be more likely to improve and reintegrate into society if they receive consistent care, something relatively few jails or prisons offer. Mr. Bratton said that New York State and city law enforcement agencies “were well ahead of the curve in understanding that you can’t arrest your way out of the problem.”

And, then, a cop is killed and the media narrative immediately shifts into high gear with its low key “blue lives matter” agenda. The abrupt shift reminds me of the capitalists that Naomi Klein describes who wait for a ‘shock’ of some kind to strike so they can implement their brand of disaster capitalism.

What no one will say is that a cop killing is just the kind of ‘shock’ that the law-and-order opportunists needed to push forward their agenda to lock up more people.


Irreconcilable Contradiction in “Respectability Politics”

Randall Kennedy’s provocative essay “Lifting as We Climb: A Progressive Defense of Respectability Politics” exposes a fundamental contradiction faced by subordinated groups across the world: they are held individually responsible to overcome systemic inequities and yet collectively guilty for wrongdoings of individuals belonging to their group.

(Image credit: New York City, 1962 © Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos, Image source)

This irreconcilable contradiction is no accident. Quite the contrary, by design, powerful groups create rules that make it impossible for subordinated groups to escape from the bottom rungs of the power hierarchy. Kennedy’s optimistic essay fails to tackle how to overcome this contradiction as a prerequisite for making respectability politics an effective “public relations tactic” capable of making transformational reforms.

In highlighting that “any marginalized group should be attentive to how it is perceived,” Kennedy holds steadfast to the belief that individual action, dress, and speech can overcome group oppression. The flaw in Kennedy’s reasoning, however, lies in the assumption that individual African American’s behavior can shape societal perceptions that in turn affect African Americans’ collective material interests. I proffer this assumption is false.

A common feature of repressive systems worldwide is the imposition of negative stereotypes on all members of subordinated groups irrespective of their individual behavior and beliefs. Negative media depictions and an over-emphasis on the wrongdoings of individuals within the subordinate group shape the citizenry’s perceptions of that group and in turn rationalize inequities. In stark contrast, bad actors within groups with power are excised as an exception to the positive perceptions presumed of all members of that group.

Hence, Kennedy’s position that “taking care in presenting oneself publicly and desire strongly to avoid saying or doing anything that will reflect badly on blacks, reinforce negative racial stereotypes, or needlessly alienate potential allies” ignores the contradiction facing blacks in America: a predominantly white power structure that imposes collective guilt irrespective of an individual black’s “respectable” behavior, dress, and talk.

Furthermore, much of the individual wrongdoing used to perpetuate negative stereotypes of blacks is a product of systemic economic, social, and political deprivation that requires systemic, not individual, fixes. Poor inner city neighborhoods are virtual prisons infested with violence and unemployment that funnel the predominantly non-white inhabitants into physical prisons. For each individual who manages to overcome significant odds to leave this virtual prison, there are thousands of others whose circumstances of their birth determine their life.

Thus, rather than adopt tactics that emphasize individual respectability, resources are better spent exposing the hypocrisy of a system designed to keep blacks collectively subordinated regardless of their individual efforts. Indeed, respectability politics has failed to change structural inequities manifested in the over-representation of blacks among America’s poor, incarcerated, and unemployed.

Nonetheless, Kennedy’s essay highlights an important point: individual responsibility is a myth for racial minorities in America. Individual (bad) behavior continues to be imputed on the collective to perpetuate negative stereotypes used to rationalize systemic inequality. Unlike Kennedy, I am not optimistic that individual respectability will be similarly imputed on African Americans.

To the contrary, all those who follow his parents’ advice to “speak well, dress suitably, and mind our manners” are more likely to be disregarded as anomalies to the predominant “bad Negro” stereotype perpetually reinstated with each individual crime committed by an African American. Hence, I fear that no amount of respectability politics can free blacks from the clenches of a system designed to collectively subordinate them.

~Sahar F. Aziz is Associate Professor at Texas A&M University School of Law, where she teaches national security, civil rights, and race and the law. Her research examines how post-9/11 national security laws and policies adversely impact the civil rights of Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians in America. Her latest article “Coercive Assimilationism: The Perils of Muslim Women’s Performance Identity in the Workplace” in the Michigan Journal of Race and Law is available here.

Columbus was No Hero, Let’s Stop Celebrating Him

It’s that time of year again.  In midtown Manhattan, people are gearing up for the annual “Columbus Day Parade” which will disrupt traffic along 5th Avenue from 44th Street up to 72nd Street.  I won’t be joining in the celebration.

Like most school children in the U.S., I was taught the lie that Christopher Columbus was “an explorer” who “discovered America.”  It’s a lie that conveniently leaves out much of the truth about Columbus’ crimes against humanity.  And, this lie continues to be used by advertisers to sell products.  The spam from one retailer in my inbox this week featured the subject line, “Columbus Discovered America, and You Can Discover Savings at Barnes & Noble.” Uhm, thanks but no thanks B&N.

While the local news stations here relentlessly refer to the parade as a “celebration of Italian heritage,” I think it’s long past time we reject the myth of Columbus “discovering America,” and instead, recognize the indigenous people who already lived in the U.S. when Columbus stumbled upon it.


Curley, member of the Crow nation

(Curley, member of the Crow nation: image source)

By celebrating Columbus, we replay the legacy of colonialism and genocide. Let’s be clear. Columbus was no hero and doesn’t deserve a celebration. The history of Columbus’ record of genocide is not in dispute. When he traveled to the Caribbean (he never stepped foot on the North American continent), there were something like 75 million indigenous people living here. Within a generation of his landing, perhaps only 5-10% of the entire American Indian population remained. When Columbus and the men who traveled with him under the Spanish flag returned to the area we now call the West Indies, they took the land and launched widespread massacres, including of children, a process they described as “pacification”. (For more on this history, see this, this and this.)

Yet, despite the genocide that followed in his wake, some see the embrace of Columbus as a national hero and the Columbus Day holiday as a response to racism and discrimination experienced by Italian immigrants here in the U.S.  Tommi Avicolli-Mecca writes:

I understand why Italian-Americans embraced Columbus. When we arrived in this country, we weren’t exactly greeted with open arms, any more than any other immigrants. There were NINA (No Italian Need Apply) notices in store windows, as well as lynchings in the South, where we were considered nonwhite.

And, like so many other holidays, this one is a bit misguided. In point of fact, Columbus is a man with a tenuous link to contemporary Italy.  As you’ll recall from the grade school rhyme, Columbus “sailed the ocean blue” in 1492; contemporary Italy wasn’t a country until 1861.

Still, I don’t think that means we shouldn’t be celebrating Italian Americans’ heritage and contributions to the U.S.  I just think we should be focusing on the radical tradition of some Italian Americans, such as Mario Savio, Vito Marcantonio, and Sacco and Vanzetti.

There is a strong, radical history among Italian Americans that has been largely forgotten.  In their book, The Lost World of Italian American Radicalism (Praeger 2003), Philip Cannistraro and Gerald Meyer, help uncover some of this history.  Their edited volume shows that in contrast to their present conservative image (cf. Carl Paladino’s anti-gay remarks), Italian Americans played a central role in the working-class struggle of the early twentieth century.  Italian Americans were leaders in major strikes across the country—notably the Lawrence textile strikes of 1912 and 1919, the Paterson silk strike of 1913, the Mesabi Iron Range strikes of 1907 and 1916, and the New York City Harbor strikes of 1907 and 1919, as well as coal mining strikes. They also made important contributions to American labor unions, especially the revolutionary Industrial Workers of the World, the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. At the same time, they built vibrant radical Italian immigrant communities that replicated the traditions, cultures, and politics of the old country.  For example, Italian immigrants formed their own political and social clubs, mutual aid societies, alternative libraries and press, as well as their own orchestras and theaters, designed to promote and sustain a radical subculture.

This radical subculture of Italian Americans was oppositional to both the hegemonic culture sustained by prominenti (the powerful men of the Little Italys) and the dominant culture of capitalist America. Yet, for the most part, this radical tradition has been set aside in favor of the hagiography of Columbus and, frankly, the valorizing of settler colonialism.

In recent years, several cities have begun to reject the Columbus Day holiday, replacing it with Indigenous People’s Day.

Protest against Columbus Day in Seattle

(Protest in Seattle, 2014: image source)

Berkeley, California, was the first city to do so in 1992. Seattle and Minneapolis followed its lead in October 2014, generating the movement’s current momentum. Since then, seven more municipalities — including Lawrence, Kansas, Portland, Oregon, and Bexar County, Texas (where San Antonio is located)— have joined their ranks.

Whether to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day, or the radical tradition of working class Italian Americans, it’s time to recognize that Columbus was no hero. We should stop celebrating him.